Broad alumni are known for their influential leadership, commitment to excellence and determination to make a difference. Stephen Harris (B.A. Accounting ’93) has brought these values to life in his role as president of Medicaid at Health Care Service Corporation, which administers Blue Cross and Blue Shield plans in Illinois, Montana, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas.
“Medicaid managed care has allowed me to align my professional skills with making an impact to improve the lives of those in poor and underserved communities, similar to the neighborhood where I grew up on the northwest side of Detroit,” Harris said. “I truly enjoy leveraging my experience and skills to improve quality health care outcomes to the 1 million Medicaid members we serve at Health Care Service Corporation.”
Harris has spent nearly 20 years in the health care industry, working to make a difference for people every day — and his work hasn’t gone unnoticed. Last week, Harris was honored as one of Chicago United’s 2021 Business Leaders of Color for standing out as a dynamic and influential executive.
“For so many years during my career journey, my focus has been on making an impact, and to be recognized serves as a validation point that I am on the right path,” he said.
Since 2003, Chicago United has honored a total of 420 business leaders of color from a broad range of industries and backgrounds, including former first lady Michelle Obama. For Harris, his time spent at Michigan State created a strong foundation to help him achieve career success.
“I had a great experience during my time at MSU and in Broad College,” he said, noting that many of his friendships formed on the banks of the Red Cedar endure to this day. Harris recalled his involvement with the Broad College’s Multicultural Business Programs, which offered a strong support network, a pathway to internships and invaluable opportunities to develop leadership skills, including his role as president of the MSU Chapter of the National Association of Black Accountants.
“As an MBP tutor, I learned how to convey complex concepts and topics in ways that allowed the other person to understand, digest and thrive,” he continued. “These experiences perfected my knowledge transfer skills I leverage to this day, as I convey business strategy and work collaboratively to resolve critical business issues with my team.”
Mentorship has remained a key element of his journey. From having mentors who shaped the trajectory of his own career — including MSU’s Ernest Betts, recently retired assistant dean of MBP — to being a mentor and taking on opportunities to help those around him, Harris says it has been one of the highlights of his career.
“Exposure is important, and I am a strong proponent of serving as a mentor to ‘pay it forward’ and provide critical support to high-potential talent,” Harris said. “I make myself available to assist others in formal or informal, structured or ad-hoc mentor relationships. I aim to be authentic and approachable, share honest thoughts and analysis on challenges or serve as a trusted listener or adviser.”
As advice for today’s Broad Spartans who also hope to transform the future of business, Harris shared four nuggets of wisdom:
“First, enjoy your time at MSU, because it goes by fast. Second, be strategic and think about where you want to be five or ten years from now, and begin to understand what tangible actions you must take now to realize that vision.
“Next, take full advantage of the wealth of knowledge outside of the classroom. Step outside of your comfort zone and listen to visiting guest speakers that may not perfectly align with your personal point of view, to provide a deeper understanding and perspective on economic, political and social issues that impact our society.
“Finally, the ability to develop and maintain trusted relationships is of particular importance, so start early.”
With such impactful experiences and accomplishments, Broad alumni like Harris are paving a path for the next generation of Spartans in business.